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Citing vulnerability of small islands, Pacific leaders urge early entry into force of Paris climate accord

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-first session.
UN Photo/Cia Pak
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-first session.

Citing vulnerability of small islands, Pacific leaders urge early entry into force of Paris climate accord

Addressing the annual debate of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, leaders from Pacific Small Island Developing States underlined today the urgency of strong and committed action on the global pledges made for the planet and its people.

In his address, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa underlined that the agreements and outcomes reached last year would be extremely important in address the challenges confronting the global society.

Noting, in particular, that the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development address issues that not only important, but also interconnected, they should be implemented in an inclusive approach to ensure that they will be addressed in totality.

“Only then can one be able to say with some level of comfort that in the implementation of the new development agenda, no one will be left behind,” the Prime Minister stressed.

He also recognized the role and leadership of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in making climate change a priority for the UN during his tenure and for his special focus on the Pacific small islands and hoped that his successor would continue his legacy.

The Samoan leader also called for reforms to the Secretary-General selection process to give the wider membership of the organization the chance to choose the leader of the global body.

Noting that the Pacific region has been witness to some of the most adverse impacts of climate change manifested through natural disasters, the Prime Minister said that it is particularly encouraging to see commitment and the will to translate the Paris Agreement into reality, he said that early entry into force of the Agreement should be everyone’s priority.

Prime Minister Malielegaoi also noted that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not mere aspirations and that they are basic human needs that are achievable within our lifetime, and underscored the importance of partnership and collaboration of all to translate the aspirations into reality.

Similarly, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sosene Sopoanga also said that the ratification of the Paris Agreement by a number of countries has given his country renewed trust and confidence in the work of the UN.

Applauding the strong leadership of the United States and other major green-house-gas emitting countries to ratify the Paris Agreement, he said “We must [now] ensure that the Paris Agreement enters into force [and that] it must be fully elaborated and operationalized as early as possible on real adaptation and mitigation.”

Underlining that Tuvalu like other Pacific islands is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change he expressed: “We pray that through these great halls of the UN, our humble voice will be amplified by the conscience and goodwill of humanity for real urgent action.”

He also said that because the SDGs are universal and apply to all countries, its implementation also requires a collaborative approach through durable and genuine partnerships amongst all countries, big and small.

Prime Minister Sopoanga also stressed the importance of responding to the plight of people affected by mass displacement and movements and to protect their rights, and added that long-lasting solutions to conflicts, such as those in Syria and other troubled spots in the world be found. He also called deplored the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that have threatened peace and security in the Pacific Ocean region.

Noting that the UN can only be as effective as the sum of all national and regional actions put together, the Prime Minister said that Tuvalu, on its part, is fully committed to actions to meet the targets of the global development agenda.

Also today, addressing the General Assembly, the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands highlighted the importance of implementation of the global development agenda and emphasized his country’s commitment to the process.

Highlighting the urgent need of action to combat climate change, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare reported that this year, according to scientists, five of the country’s islands disappeared due to seal-level rise and six others were severely eroded. “Last year was a year of agreements and adoption of frameworks, this year must be about operationalising the agreements and implementing frameworks,” he said.

In particular, he expressed hope that “big emitters” and industrial countries recognize the urgency of preventing a runaway climate change and ratify the Paris Agreement to enable its early entry into force.

Furthermore, speaking as the current chair of the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF), he reported the Forum’s attempt to take forward sustainable development through a structured and inclusive approach with the tripartite leadership of government, the private sector and civil society. He also reported his country’s commitment and support to UN peacekeeping efforts and expressed appreciation to all members of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) for their partnership and commitment to Solomon Islands.

Also, drawing attention to the need of Security Council reforms, the Prime Minister urged for work to be continued to make the Council more accountable, representative and transparent and added that Solomon Islands and other small island developing States continue to seek a dedicated seat for this category in the non-permanent category in the Council.

“Climate change is real and its consequences are being felt worldwide, Prime Minister Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas of Vanuatu said, telling the Assembly that his county deposited its instrument of ratification of the Paris Agreement with the Secretary-General two days ago, and calling on other States to follow suit as soon as possible.

Noting that small island States are on the frontlines of the fight against climate change, he stressed that it would take “bold” action to keep within 1.5 degree increase in global temperature as stated in the Paris Agreement. He also recalled his country’s vulnerability to rising sea levels and noted that international assistance is appreciated, but that coordination of post-disaster financial aid through non-governmental organizations is sometimes inefficient and failed to respect national reconstruction priorities.

Vanuatu is proud to contribute to United Nations missions in Haiti and Côte d’Ivoire and it was ready to send more troops if called upon. On decolonization, he welcomed United Nations assistance with electoral lists in New Caledonia, whose people should freely choose their future status of self-determination. He went on to urge the United Nations to take concrete measures to address human rights concerns in West Papua.